Speaking at his monthly media briefing, British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented twelve measures designed to respond to the attacks of July 7. Some are being adopted immediately; others (requiring legislation) are under “urgent examination.” But one thing was abundantly clear: For the Prime Minister, at least, the Islamofascist attacks on London had changed everything.
His proposals are strong ones. Henceforth, in Britain, “fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person’s beliefs or justifying or validating such violence” will be grounds for deportation. New anti-terror legislation will include the offense of “condoning or glorifying terrorism.” Government powers will be extended to allow “naturalized citizens engaged in extremism” to be stripped of their citizenship. The number of “special judges” hearing terrorism-related cases will be expanded. And there are more.
Certainly, some of Blair’s measures would run afoul of the First Amendment – and would be unnecessary, or incompatible with American civic life and traditions. But what is noteworthy and admirable is Blair’s willingness to step forward with realistic, hard-hitting proposals designed to address the dangers posed by Muslim separatism and the radical Muslim clerics preaching hatred and extremism.
As a Labour politician, Tony Blair’s natural American counterparts are the Democrats. But what a difference an ocean makes! Blair’s leadership and resolution couldn’t pose more of a contrast with the Democratic Party’s approach to the war on terror in America.
After the immediate unity inspired by the attacks of 9/11, Democratic politicians almost immediately began to criticize the President. Opposition to the Patriot Act, to the war in Iraq – not to mention detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and the use of military tribunals – has been widespread throughout the Democratic Party. And just last May, 122 Democrats voted to set a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq – presumably, whether or not American objectives have been achieved.
Certainly, there must be Democrats who don’t agree with the talking points purveyed by heavyweights like Senators Teddy Kennedy, Dick Durbin and Robert Byrd or Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. But one never seems to hear from them. And so far, the only measures in the war on terror vocally supported by alleged Democratic “hawks” like Hillary Clinton seem to be reactive ones – most notably the demands for more government money for “homeland security” in the senator’s home state.
But the Democrats’ silence on the tough issues shouldn’t fool anyone. Make no mistake – if there is another attack on America, their voices will be raised in loud and fervent criticism of what wasn’t done to prevent it.
Perhaps such political gamesmanship is the prerogative of those in the minority – at least when they have fundamentally abdicated the responsibilities of governing. That’s a luxury that Tony Blair doesn’t have. And here in the United States, the Democrats’ resort to second-guessing is one reason that they aren’t likely to find themselves in the leadership position occupied by the British Labour Party anytime soon.
[This piece originally appeared at The One Republic.]